The Phantom Ship

Chapter Thirty-six

Frederick Marryat

PREVIOUS to continuing our narrative, it may be as well to give our readers some little insight into the nature, ceremonies, and regulations of the Inquisition, and in describing that of Goa, we may be said to describe all others, with very trifling, if any, variation.

The Santa Casa, or Inquisition of Goa, is situated on one side of a large square, called the Terra di Sabaio. It is a massy handsome pile of stone buildings, with three doors in the front: the centre one is larger than the two lateral, and it is through the centre door that you go into the Hall of Judgment. The side-doors lead to spacious and handsome apartments for the Inquisitors, and officers attached to the establishment.

Behind these apartments are the cells and dungeons of the Inquisition; they are in two long galleries, with double doors to each, and are about ten feet square. There are about two hundred of them; some are much more comfortable than the others, as light and air are admitted into them: the others are wholly dark. In the galleries the keepers watch, and not a word or a sound can proceed from any cell without their being able to overhear it. The treatment of those confined is, as far as respects their food, very good: great care is taken that the nourishment is of that nature that the prisoners may not suffer from the indigestion arising from want of exercise. Surgical attendance is also permitted them; but unless on very particular occasions no priests are allowed to enter. Any consolation to be derived from religion, even the office of confessor and extreme unction, in case of dissolution, are denied them. Should they die during their confinement, whether proved guilty or not of the crime of which they are accused, they are buried without any funeral ceremony, and tried afterwards; if then found guilty, their bones are disinterred, and the execution of their sentence is passed upon their remains.

There are two Inquisitors at Goa: one the Grand Inquisitor, and the other his second, who are invariably chosen from the order of St. Dominique; these two are assisted in their judgment and examinations by a large number selected from the religious orders, who are termed deputies of the Holy Office, but who only attend when summoned: they have other officers, whose duty it is to examine all published books, and ascertain if there is anything in their pages contrary to the holy religion. There is also a public accuser, a procureur of the Inquisition, and lawyers, who are permitted to plead the case of the prisoners, but whose chief business and interest it is to obtain their secrets and betray them. What are termed Familiars of the Inquisition, are in fact, nothing but this description of people: but this disgraceful office is taken upon themselves by the highest nobility, who think it an honour, as well as a security, to be enrolled among the Familiars of the Inquisition, who are thus to be found dispersed throughout society; and every careless word, or expression, is certain to be repeated to the Holy Office. A summons to attend at the Inquisition is never opposed; if it were, the whole populace would rise and enforce it. Those who are confined in the dungeons of the Inquisition are kept separate; it is a very uncommon thing to put two together: it is only done when it is considered that the prolonged solitude of the dungeon has created such a depression of spirits as to endanger the life of the party. Perpetual silence is enjoined and strictly kept. Those who wail or weep, or even pray, in their utter darkness, are forced by blows to be quiet. The cries and shrieks of those who suffer from this chastisement, or from the torture, are carried along the whole length of the corridors, terrifying those who, in solitude and darkness, are anticipating the same fate.

The first question put to a person arrested by the Inquisition, is a demand, “What is his property?” He is desired to make an exact declaration of everything that he is worth, and swear to the truth of his assertions; being informed that, if there is any reservation on his part, (although he may be at that time innocent of the charges produced against him) he will, by his concealment, have incurred the wrath of the Inquisition; and that, if discharged for the crime he is accused of, he will again be arrested for having taken a false oath to the Inquisition; that, if innocent, his property will be safe, and not interfered with. It is not without reason that this demand is made. If a person accused confesses his crime, he is, in most cases, eventually allowed to go free, but all his property becomes confiscated.

By the rules of the Inquisition it is made to appear as if those condemned have the show of justice; for, although two witnesses are sufficient to warrant the apprehension of any individual, seven are necessary to convict him; but as the witnesses are never confronted with the prisoners, and torture is often applied to the witnesses, it is not difficult to obtain the number required. Many a life is falsely sworn away by the witness, that he may save his own. The chief crimes which are noticed by the Inquisition are those of sorcery, heresy, blasphemy, and what is called Judaism.

To comprehend the meaning of this last crime, for which more people have suffered from the Inquisition than for any other, the reader must be informed, that when Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile drove all the Jews out of Spain, they fled to Portugal, where they were received on the sole condition that they should embrace Christianity: this they consented, or appeared to consent, to do; but these converts were despised by the Portuguese people, who did not believe them to be sincere. They obtained the title of New Christians, in contradistinction to that of Old Christians. After a time the two were occasionally intermingled in marriage; but when so, it was always a reproach to the old families; and descendants from these alliances were long termed, by way of reproach, as having a portion of the New Christians in them.

The descendants of the old families thus intermingled, not only lost caste, but, as the genealogy of every family was well known, they were looked upon with suspicion, and were always at the mercy of the Holy Office, when denounced for Judaism,—that is, for returning to the old Jewish practices of keeping the Passover, and the other ceremonies enforced by Moses.

Let us see how an accusation of this kind works in the hands of the Inquisition. A really sincere Catholic, descended from one of these unhappy families, is accused and arrested by the orders of the Inquisition; he is ordered to declare his property, which,—convinced of his innocence, and expecting soon to be released, he does without reservation. But hardly has the key of the dungeon turned upon him, when all his effects are seized and sold by public auction, it being well understood that they never will be restored to him. After some months’ confinement, he is called into the Hall of Justice, and asked if he knows why he is in prison; they advise him earnestly to confess and to conceal nothing, as it is the only way by which he can obtain his liberty. He declares his ignorance and being sent for several times, persists in it. The period of the auto-da-fe, or act of faith, which takes place every two or three years, (that is, the public execution of those who have been found guilty by the Inquisition,) approaches. The public accuser then comes forward, stating that the prisoner has been accused by a number of witnesses of Judaism. They persuade him to acknowledge his guilt. He persists in his innocence; they then pass a sentence on him, which they term Convicte Invotivo, which means “found guilty, but will not confess his crime;” and he is sentenced to be burnt at the approaching celebration. After this they follow him to his cell, and exhort him to confess his guilt, and promise that if he does confess he shall be pardoned; and these appeals are continued until the evening of the day before his execution. Terrified at the idea of a painful death, the wretch, at last, to save his life, consents. He is called into the Hall of Judgment, confesses the crime that he has not committed, and imagines that he is now saved.—Alas! now he has entangled himself, and cannot escape.

“You acknowledge that you have been guilty of observing the laws of Moses. These ceremonies cannot be performed alone; you cannot have eaten the Paschal lamb alone; tell us immediately, who were those who assisted at those ceremonies, or your life is still forfeited, and the stake is prepared for you.”

Thus has he accused himself without gaining anything, and if he wishes to save his life, he must accuse others; and who can be accused but his own friends and acquaintances? nay, in all probability, his own relations—his brothers, sisters, wife, sons, or daughters—for it is natural to suppose that, in all such practices, a man will trust only his own family. Whether a man confesses his guilt, or dies asserting his innocence, his worldly property is in either case confiscated; but it is of great consequence to the Inquisition that he should confess, as his act of confession, with his signature annexed, is publicly read, and serves to prove to the world that the Inquisition is impartial and just; nay, more, even merciful, as it pardons those who have been proved to be guilty.

At Goa the accusations of sorcery and magic were much more frequent than at the Inquisitions at other places, arising from the customs and ceremonies of the Hindoos being very much mixed up with absurd superstitions. These people, and the slaves from other parts, very often embraced Christianity to please their masters; but since, if they had been baptised and were afterwards convicted of any crime, they were sentenced to the punishment by fire; whereas if they had not been baptised, they were only punished by whipping, imprisonment, or the galleys; upon this ground alone many refused to embrace Christianity.

We have now detailed all that we consider, up to the present, necessary for the information of the reader; all that is omitted he will gather as we proceed with our history.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Thirty-seven

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